January 26th, 2011

Holy Cross Wrestling Program On The Rise

Brad Knoop

Staff Writer

Holy Cross Wrestling Program On The Rise
photo from Lynn Duckworth

Cougar coach Dwayne Payne has had help recruiting

Weekday afternoons in the Holy Cross High School cafeteria are not quiet. 

Tables and chairs are shoved out of the way so Cougar wrestlers can unfold the maroon and gray mats for practice. Head Coach Dwayne Payne’s voice echoes down the school hallways, even through closed double doors.

“What do you need, an invitation?” Payne emphatically asks when one of his wrestlers fails to negotiate a move when the opportunity was golden. 

There are times when it looks as if the two biggest Cougars - juniors Chad Conway and Jeremy Glass - are headed straight through the concrete walls of the room. And as strong as they are, they could probably cause some damage to those walls.

“One year I had two wrestlers. That’s all,” Payne says with a grin.

Payne has coached Cougar wrestling since 2005. 

This is his biggest team and maybe his most talented, right down to the freshmen and sophomores who make up the junior-varsity team. Four Cougars won JV regional titles: freshman Hunter Baum (103 lb class), freshman Deondre Porter (152 lb), sophomore Jordan Willenborg (160 lb) and sophomore Noah Jesse (171 lb).  Freshman Collin Baker (112 lb) finished 3rd. They all qualified for Saturday’s JV state tournament at Moore High School.

On the varsity level, four Cougars are ranked in the state of Kentucky. Juniors Conway (215 lb), Glass (Heavyweight), and Robbie Valdez (152 lb) and sophomore Willenborg (160 lb).

“A couple years ago we had our first regional champ and a two time state qualifier in Austin Jaggers. He even had a six second pin — one of the fastest ever,” Payne recalls. “I tell these guys I want them to shatter some of those records. I have a strong feeling they can place in state, if not win. They come in here, respect one another, love one another and work hard.”

Conway, who also plays football, says he always wanted to get into wrestling. One reason is because his dad was a wrestler at Western High School. Another reason is because he and his younger brother Aaron (who is a freshman wrestler at Holy Cross) always went at it on the floor at home. He has grown into his leadership role.

“My freshman year wasn’t real good for me, I got whipped a lot. Last year, I started winning some and liked it,” Conway says. “But I broke my hand and I didn’t get to wrestle in the regional. After that I realized I wanted to be back there next year and get into the state tournament. I would like to place this year and get in finals next year.”

Glass, who finished third in the King of the Bluegrass and in the South Oldham event and has a goal of placing in the state tournament, says conditioning is a key to wrestling.

“You have to be conditioned physically and mentally," said Glass. "There’s no room for mistakes.”

Payne, a wrestler and football player at Shawnee High School in the early 1990s, credits Conway and Glass for fielding this year’s team. 

“They recruited these guys in the hall ways,” Payne says. “These younger guys probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jeremy and Chad.”

Conway admits to helping fill the roster. 

“We try to be leaders for the younger guys," said Conway. "We want to push them.”

Practice isn’t wrapped up until the mats are rolled up and put away and tables and chairs are returned to make the room look again like a cafeteria. Wrestlers gather their belongings from their locker room - a small room underneath a flight of stairs. But it does have some fine amenities: a couch, TV and refrigerator. 

Said Payne: “When I took the job they said, ‘we don’t have a lot.’  I said, ‘well, I didn’t have a lot (at Shawnee) either.’ But we do have determination, we work hard, and we built that locker room. That’s just one example of our dedication.” 


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